The president of People with Disability Australia (PWDA) has reprimanded the Australian Government for using “dodgy accounting” to frighten people about the expected cost of the nation’s National Disability Insurance Scheme.
PWDA president Samantha Connor said the government was using scare tactics to sell a suite of reforms that would disadvantage people with disability.
“Tonight, I’ll be in the Budget lock-up with many others, scrutinising the Budget papers,” Ms Connor wrote in a blog post on PWDA’s website.
She questioned whether the latest budget would be a budget for people with disability.
“There is enormous risk to the lives and welfare of people with disability if this Budget does not deliver for disabled people, especially in the middle of a pandemic,” Ms Connor wrote.
“There is significant concern that the measures government plan to implement, including independent assessments, will have perverse outcomes for us.
“And there is solid evidence that government are desperately trying to pull out every card they have, including dodgy accounting and dark forecasts, to ensure these changes go through.”
Ms Connor flagged a report from the ABC journalist Andrew Probyn last night where he claimed the “ABC had learned that Treasurer Josh Frydenberg’s third budget will on Tuesday forecast the NDIS costing more than $30 billion in 2024-25.”
PWDA’s president has highlighted the forecast was not a surprise as it was based on numbers produced in 2017 and an expected increase in the number of disabled people in Australia.
Ms Connor decried the government spin Probyn had been handed about the NDIS, calling it “the latest in a raft of scare tactics used by the Coalition, citing the use of ‘prostitutes’, ‘funding of yachts’ and ‘postcode disparity’ as reasons not to properly fund the landmark scheme.
“Unsurprisingly, government have chosen not to release the figures that back up the assertion that the NDIS will ‘overtake the cost of Medicare within three years’ and other dire predictions, including an unprecedented escalation in the number of participants in the scheme.”
Comparing apples and oranges
Ms Connor called out the National Disability Insurance Agency and its actuary for its accounting practices, which she likened to comparing apples with oranges.
“Disability advocates are united in their response to the new announcement – it’s just not true. Worse than that, it’s potentially deliberately misleading,” she wrote.
“We disabled people know how the NDIS works and we understand the ways the NDIA’s outsourced actuary can present what I believe is fiction and conjecture as truth, almost convincingly.
“When government says that ‘the average payment per participant increased by almost 48 per cent between 2017 and 2020’, they’re not telling you that the NDIA moved to two- and three-year plans (rather than annual plans) over the past few years, so they’re comparing apples to oranges.”
Ms Connor highlighted the government’s historical underspending on the NDIS and track record in using underspends to fund other endeavours.
“There isn’t a good history here about accurate estimates of costs. Look at the costs in 2014, 2015 and onward,” she wrote.”
“The underspend has been significant. In 2019, the inaccuracies were so great that they clawed back over $4.2bn to support the budget surplus, thereby winning an election.”
Ms Connor said she hoped the government wouldn’t claw back budgets for people with disability in its latest Federal Budget to be released tonight.
To speak to Samantha Connor about the Budget contact us on the media details below and it will be passed along.
Amanda Ellis, PWDA Senior Policy Officer
Phone: +61 408 682 867